Blair switched the engine off thankfully and leaned his head on the steering wheel. His head pounded, his throat was sore and his joints ached. He was exhausted and quite frankly not looking forward to going upstairs to the loft.
He loved his family and was always glad to spend time with them, but just for this brief moment Blair wished he were going to an empty warehouse where he could drop things where he wanted and just crawl straight into bed. No greetings, questions, house rules or listening to someone else's day.
"Are you planning to sleep there?" Jim tapped on the window and Blair jumped in shock before yanking his keys from the ignition and grabbing for his pack.
"Sorry, Chief," Jim apologised as he opened the door for Blair and snagged the pack, "Didn't mean to startle you."
"Hi Da," Tommy said quietly and took Blair by the hand carefully, "C'mon, me and Uncle Jim are gonna take care of you."
"Are you?" Blair asked, a little bewildered and let them usher him across the road. Tommy led the way upstairs confidently and Blair decided to just go with the flow.
"When do we get your results Chief?" Jim asked, putting a hand in the small of Blair's back to steady him.
"Tomorrow afternoon," Blair mumbled, "Go back at three."
"Seems like a long time to wait," Jim scowled - didn't they realize how important this was to Blair and the family? Blair shrugged and trudged along the hall to the loft, stopping to let Jim unlock the door. He toed off his leather shoes and pulled his hair free from the silver clip. Tommy took the shoes away and Jim helped with his jacket and tie.
"Go have a shower and get into your sweats Chief. Dinner in twenty," Jim urged gently and Blair nodded, leaned down to hug and kiss his son before dragging himself off to the shower.
The hot water soothed the worst of the aches and the casserole filled a hole in his stomach Blair hadn't even noticed, taking away the edge of his headache as well. As soon as he finished Tommy was leading Blair to his old room and his brother pulled back the covers on the futon.
"Tommy can sleep upstairs with me tonight Chief. Go to sleep now, ok?" Jim urged and Tommy helped tuck the exhausted man in before kissing him on the cheek and tiptoeing out, one hand firmly attached to Uncle Jim.
Three o'clock found nephew and uncle sitting in a warm hallway on a saggy old couch.
"What time is it Uncle Jim?" Tommy asked in the barest whisper and Jim smiled. His nephew might not have said anything about it yet, but he'd definitely noticed Jim's sight and hearing were better than average. He knew he didn't have to raise his voice to talk to his uncle and loved having 'secret' conversations with him.
"It's one minute to three," Jim whispered back a little louder. Blair was pacing the hall nearby and Jim was getting dizzy just watching. He could hear his friends' heart racing nervously and breathed deeply - determined to be calm for the both of them. A door opened further down the corridor and a woman in pearls and a navy skirt suit emerged.
"Mr. Sandburg?" she called and Blair whirled, heading towards her quickly. She ushered him into her office and Tommy clutched at Jim's arm in excitement.
"Breathe, Tommy," Jim smiled, "Everything will be ok."
Tommy nodded and leaned into Jim's arm, stroking his cheek against the woolen sleeve and keeping his eyes fixed on the door Blair had entered. Time dragged for them both before the door opened again and Blair emerged. He shook hands solemnly with the lady and turned, walking calmly towards his family until he heard the door behind him shut.
A huge grin split his face and he turned a cartwheel right there in the corridor.
"I did it!" he exclaimed and hugged a cheering Tommy to him. Jim joined in, making it a three-way hug.
"My brother the doctor!" Jim crowed, "I knew you'd make it Chief!"
"Doctor Da! Doctor Da!" Tommy chanted and kissed Blair's cheek happily. Blair kissed him back and grinned at Jim.
"Not without you," Blair smiled, "My inspiration."
"My Guide," Jim breathed and Blair tucked his head into Jim's neck for a moment - a rare caress.
"Let's tell Uncle Simon!" Tommy exclaimed, "And Poppy! And Auntie Rhonda!"
"Yeah!" Jim seconded and dug out the cell phone.
Simon balanced the pot plant carefully in the crook of his arm and knocked on the door of apartment 305. True, he had a key to the front door, just like he did for 307, but tonight was special.
It was the official house-warming party of Doctor Blair Sandburg. Blair had moved in next door to Jim and the two men had knocked a door in their common wall. As far as Simon knew there was no door in the doorway - making it a corridor by default. A lot of people thought it strange that Blair would choose to move next door to his official partner, but Simon knew better. Sentinel and Guide remained together, no matter what - especially after the incident at the fountain.
The door opened and Tommy grinned up at his Uncle Simon. The boy was wearing cargo pants and a cable knit sweater. His favorite toy giraffe was tucked under one arm.
"Tommy Sandburg did you open that door?" Simon almost scowled. A dangerous habit for a three-year-old with two front doors, and one that would be nipped in the bud right now.
"No, Uncle Simon," Tommy shook his head emphatically, "Uncle Jim said it was you and undid it for me. I just pulled."
"That's good, Tommy," Simon smiled, "Never open the door without your Da or Uncle Jim's permission ok?"
"I know that rule!" Tommy protested, "I promised not to."
"Good boy," Simon stepped in and Tommy pushed the door shut while Simon got his first real look at the loft that Blair had bought.
It had brick walls, glass doors leading to a balcony and wooden floors like Jim's, but there the resemblance ended. Jim's balcony looked over the harbor - eventually - Blair's faced the mountains. Jim's kitchen featured warm wooden cabinets; Blair's featured cool metal finished surfaces. The staircase had a bookshelf built under it, already filled with Tommy's toys and books. There were two blue overstuffed couches set in front of a blue stained wooden coffee table. A modest entertainment system was built into the corner the couches faced. A solid wood dining setting in cool tones rested in the same place Jim's did next door.
The real feature was the bookcase. It ran without pause from floor to ceiling around the three inner walls of Blair's loft. The front door - which was covered in pictures drawn by Tommy - was the only break in the bookcase. It even ran up the stairs to the loft where Blair slept. It was full of books, framed pictures, artifacts and memorabilia from dozens of expeditions and travels. Blair had installed indirect lighting to fill his home with a gentle glow, supplemented by table lamps.
"Woah - what library exploded in here?" Simon asked Blair as his host approached with two beers in hand.
"I had them all in storage at the Uni," Blair shrugged, "I never realised how much stuff I'd accumulated. And of course there was all the stuff in my office too - you've seen that, Simon."
"I thought most of it was on loan!" Simon accepted the beer and shook his head, looking around with a grin; "It's you, kid. I'll give you that. How do you reach the top shelves?"
"See that railing that runs around the upper part of the shelves?" Blair pointed, "The ladder hooks onto that and I climb it."
"Is that safe?" Simon asked dubiously and Blair laughed, nodding in reassurance.
"Perfectly," he replied, "Handy for dusting too."
"Oh, here. I got you a plant," Simon remembered his armful and handed it over to Blair, "Try not to kill it in the first week, ok?"
Blair laughed in appreciation and accepted the gift.
"I've got the perfect spot for it," he smiled and headed away. Simon spotted Jim and over on one of the couches and headed in that direction, only to be stopped by Tommy.
"Want to see my room?" Tommy asked hopefully, and Simon grinned, reaching down to take the hand being held up to him. Tommy gripped him tightly and Simon rubbed his thumb over the small knuckles in a move that always worked with Daryl. The anxious grip eased a little.
"I'd love to see it," he replied and was led to the French doors under the loft. Déjà vu Simon mused as Tommy pushed the door open carefully and led the Captain in. The built in wardrobe was again decorated with Tommy's artwork. There was a desk made of stained pine and a tall boy and dresser to match. A toy box sat at the foot of the queen sized single bed. A brightly patterned doona topped the bed and a plain rug in soothing colors rested on the floor. There were framed photographs on the walls - Tommy and his mother in formal poses and Tommy with Blair or Jim informally. A basket ball rested on the floor next to the dresser - one of the small sized ones perfect for a three-year-old to play with outside.
"Do you like it?" Tommy bounced, "I picked where it all went by myself! Da and Uncle Jim let me be the boss!"
"That's why it looks so nice!" Simon grinned and Tommy giggled happily. Jim stuck his head in the room and said hello to Simon, before telling Tommy that Poppy was on his way down the corridor and did Tommy want to open the door for him?
Tommy dashed out of the room and was brought up sharply by rule number one - no running inside.
"Poppy?" Simon asked and nearly choked as the happy boy engulfed William Ellison in an exuberant hug.
"He adopted Dad the first night they met," Jim shrugged, "And…I don't know, Simon, but Dad's…different now. More accepting."
"You're ok with it, Jim?" Simon pressed and Jim nodded.
"Maybe he'll be a better Poppy than he was a father," Jim smiled, "I don't have the heart to shut him out now, Simon. Look at how happy they are."
"Jim! We're out of dip!" Blair called from the kitchen. Jim raised his voice to be heard clearly.
"I've got some still, I'll go get it."
Simon followed his friend into the apartment next door, through the passage between the two bathrooms. He looked around at the familiar set up in Jim's loft, and then looked again.
"Hey - Sandburg still has stuff here!" Simon exclaimed and Jim shrugged.
"I got used to having the artifacts and stuff around. He said he'd leave them up if I wanted. We spend most of our time in each other's houses, Simon. Breakfast at his place, dinner at mine in turn about. We've now got two bathrooms - thank God. Tommy wanders from one living room to the other as the mood takes him, and I've still got some of his toys and things here too. It's an extension, not a separation," Jim pulled the bowl of dip out of the fridge and grinned at his boss, "I'm not cleaning his half though!"
Tommy Sandburg looked up from his game and frowned. Something wasn't right. Da had run down to the corner store for some milk, leaving Tommy in their half of the apartment. Tommy knew that Uncle Jim was right next door if he needed anything, and he knew better than to play in the kitchen or on the stairs. Uncle Jim would hear the first whisper Tommy made, so the little boy wasn't fretting.
Still, there was something wrong. Tommy abandoned the toy cars and got up, looking around his home carefully. Nothing was out of place. He frowned and bit his lip before trotting gently in sock-clad feet to the short passage that led to Uncle Jim's house.
At first glance everything looked ok, though Tommy couldn't see Uncle Jim. There was a funny smell, and Tommy sniffed gently before walking hesitantly towards the kitchen.
"Uncle Jim!" Tommy cried and ran to his Uncle's side. There was an open bottle on the floor, pouring a smelly liquid in a puddle, and Tommy put it upright before putting the lid on. Uncle Jim was lying on the floor, curled up tight in a little ball, with some of the smelly stuff on his shirt too. He was shaking and making very quiet noises.
Tommy knelt next to the big man and patted the shaking shoulders gently. His face scrunched up in sympathy as Tommy wondered what he could do to make it better. His father's voice and words came back to him and Tommy leaned down to his uncle's ear.
"Shhh," Tommy soothed in a croon, "It's ok Uncle Jim. I'm here."
He repeated that over and over until Uncle Jim unrolled a little. Tommy reached down and started fumbling with Uncle Jim's buttons, intent on taking off the smelly shirt. He kept talking quietly in an eerie mimicry of Blair's soothing tones as one by one the buttons came undone. Uncle Jim had to sit up to take the shirt off and Tommy accomplished it with much tugging and orders. He tossed the shirt away and went back to patting Uncle Jim, who was now hunched up against the cupboard.
The front door to Tommy's apartment opened and Tommy leapt up, breaking the no running rule in order to get his Da.
"Da! Da! Uncle Jim's sick! He spilt some smelly stuff in his kitchen and it's made him all sick!" Tommy cried and Da put the milk down on the floor before running to Uncle Jim's kitchen.
"Jim where are the dials?" Da asked in that soothing croon Tommy loved to hear.
"Too high," Uncle Jim winced and Da nodded. He got his arms around Uncle Jim and got him upright and into their apartment.
"Tommy, I need the quilt from your bed, sweetie. Can you get it please?" Da asked and Tommy nodded, hurrying away to tug the doona loose and make a huge bundle out of it. When he got back to the living room there were two piles of clothes on the floor and Uncle Jim was lying nearly on top of Da on the couch. Tommy helped Da spread the doona over Uncle Jim and then got the phone at Da's request.
"Simon, it's me. We have an emergency here - can you come?" Da asked, while Uncle Jim pressed his face into Da's neck and shivered. Tommy went to put the milk in the fridge and then came back to sit on the other couch, his eyes wide as Da started to speak to Uncle Jim in that croon again.
"It's ok, Jim. The ammonia has spiked your senses to the max at the moment, but we're going to drop them back to the baseline, ok? First of all I need you to reduce your touch. Right now everything is harsh and too hot, so I want you to see that dial and turn it slowly down. Take it down until the doona is a light weight on you and my skin is just a gentle warmth. Easy does it, big guy, nice and slowly, ok?"
"Better," Uncle Jim gasped and Da nodded, stroking Uncle Jim's hair gently and pressing his face against the top of Uncle Jim's head. Tommy loved hugs that felt like that - it made him feel safe and loved.
"Now we're going to try hearing. I want you to find that dial and turn it back down. You're listening too hard Jim, so just let it go. Relax and turn the dial back to the comfortable level. No need to force it, partner - just let it go. Feel and hear my voice warming you up, ok?"
"Hmm, good," Uncle Jim mumbled and then stiffened, "Someone!"
"Jim? Blair?" Uncle Simon called from next door.
"Go get him, Tommy," Da said quickly and Tommy was off like a shot, making shushing noises as soon as he was in range.
"Tommy, are they next door?" Uncle Simon whispered and Tommy nodded. Uncle Simon took his shoes off and walked quietly down the passage and into the living room.
"How is he?" Uncle Simon whispered and Da sighed.
"Spiked to the max. This would work better in bed. Can you help me get him upstairs, Simon?"
"Sure," Uncle Simon bent down and waited expectantly.
"Jim, Simon's going to touch you now - he's going to help me get you to bed, ok? You have to let him touch you just for a little minute," Da crooned and nodded to Uncle Simon who picked Uncle Jim up with a grunt and ignored the pained sound Uncle Jim made. Da was in his boxers and he led the way upstairs to his bed quickly, stripping the doona back and piling up the pillows before climbing in and settling Uncle Jim back in his arms. Uncle Jim snuggled into Da as close as he could and hid his face again. Uncle Simon took Tommy's quilt away and covered the two men up gently.
"Say goodnight, Tommy," Uncle Simon whispered, "We can't come back up here again now. Uncle Jim will be better in the morning, but Da has to stay with him now. I'll spend the night with you ok? It'll be like a sleepover."
Tommy climbed up onto Da's big bed and kissed first Da then Uncle Jim. He led the way downstairs and watched Uncle Simon collect his pajamas and pillow from the bed before leading the way to Uncle Jim's side.
They cleaned up the smelly liquid and opened the windows before going down to the park.
"Uncle Simon - you won't tell what happened will you? Uncle Jim is magic and it's a secret," Tommy looked trustingly up at his second favorite uncle and was rewarded with a big grin and a hug.
"Tommy I've known about the magic for a very long time. I won't tell, I promise. And you did a great job today, kid. I'm sure Da and Uncle Jim are proud of you," Uncle Simon put Tommy down and pointed to the equipment, "Isn't that your friend over there?"
"Oh yeah! Hey Miki!"
Jim stirred gently and felt a hand rub his back slowly. Blair's heart thrummed soothingly beneath his cheek. He sighed against warm skin and moved his head so it was propped on his Guide's shoulder.
"Bad?" Jim asked and Blair smiled, shaking his head.
"Just a little spike," Blair soothed, "Nothing to worry about. Simon came and helped me get you up here and then he took Tommy next door for the night."
"Should have known better than to open that bottle without you being around. The lid was on so tight I spilt it all over me and the fumes knocked me down before I could get my shirt off," Jim explained. He was warm and very comfortable, curled up against Blair like this. The first time it had happened he was mortified, but Blair explained that Jim had merely given instinctive control to Blair while he recovered and it was only a problem if Jim turned it into one.
Jim had slowly come to realize he loved the sense of peace and well being snuggling with Blair gave him after an intense negative reaction. Blair had never been less than a perfect gentleman in bed and the buzz would last Jim for days. Affection like this had been rare in Jim's childhood and Carolyn had never been a snuggler. Blair indulged him happily.
"Who took your shirt off then?" Blair asked absently, his hand tracing light patterns all over Jim's back. Jim snuggled back into the crook of Blair's neck for more of his Guide's scent and closed his eyes happily.
"Tommy did," Jim replied drowsily, "His voice was just like yours Blair. I think he's a Guide too. He sneaks in under my radar like you do and I knew I could trust him."
"Guide genes?" Blair murmured, keeping his voice soft and gentle. Jim was going back to sleep under his touch and scent - he'd wake up refreshed and fully recovered in an hour or so. Jim's hand traced over Blair's chest and settled over his heart again.
"Mm-hmm," Jim mumbled and let himself relax. He felt arms cuddle him close and slid away to sleep.
Quiet footsteps announced Simon and Tommy's presence after a while and Blair turned his head, smiling. The first time Simon had found Jim and Blair in bed together he'd freaked - Blair couldn't ride along with someone he was sleeping with; the risks were too great.
Blair had cornered Simon later - once Jim was happy to let Blair out of sight. He'd explained what was going on and argued so convincingly against canceling his status that Simon couldn't help but be impressed despite himself. The next spike had been in Simon's own house and the Captain had a chance to see for himself how needy Jim was for Blair's touch and scent. That had been years ago - now Simon's first worry was how severe the spike had been and how long it would take his best team to recover.
Blair smiled at his boss and son now and Tommy hesitated before climbing up on the bed and snuggling in too.
"C'mon Uncle Simon," Tommy whispered and Simon rolled his eyes before sitting on the edge of the bed behind Tommy. Tommy frowned at him and Simon sighed, lifting his feet to stretch his legs along the mattress and leaning back against the bed head. Tommy grabbed for Simon's furthest hand and draped it over himself to lie on Blair's arm. Blair met Simon's eyes with a smile and Simon shook his head.
"Simon?" Jim's voice was slurred with sleep, and astonished pale blue eyes blinked at him from their place in Blair's neck.
"Feeling better Jim?" Simon knew not to raise his voice too loudly at first, just in case. Jim nodded and smiled at Tommy, getting a good morning kiss and then leaning back into Blair.
"What am I, a mattress?" Blair grumbled down at his friend and Jim snuffled into his shoulder.
"A comfortable one too," Jim teased and Blair sighed. His hands were still stroking random patterns on Jim's skin.
"I hate to interrupt this love-fest, but I'm hungry," he told the ceiling and Jim let go reluctantly. He was always loath to end the contact with his Guide after a spike.
"We can have pancakes," Tommy suggested, "Uncle Simon and I can make them. I've had my bath already Da!"
"Sounds good," Blair smiled, "Why don't you make them in our kitchen while Uncle Jim and I clean up?"
"Ok," Tommy wriggled free and pulled a smiling Simon after him. Blair pulled Jim back in for a final hug, then got up, grabbing clothes quickly and disappearing down the stairs. Jim tracked Blair all the way into Jim's own bathroom and then got up, borrowing the robe Blair had left behind to disguise his nudity. By the time Jim stepped from Blair's shower there was a pile of his own clean clothes on the wash basin.
Tommy and Simon were laughing in the kitchen while Blair tidied up. Jim grinned and opened the door, ready to face a new day.
"What about this one Da?" Tommy asked, holding up a very bright sweater in random patterns and textures; "It's pretty!"
Blair glanced over at the label. It was pretty, all right, pretty expensive. Tommy was holding a pure wool designer sweater from Australia.
"It's a bit hot to be wearing sweaters now sweetie, and Uncle Jim might think it's a bit bright," Blair replied neutrally, smiling when his son tilted his head thoughtfully and then nodded, putting the sweater back. Birthday shopping for Jim had never been more fun. Tommy came up with some very interesting suggestions and the whole idea of buying someone a present was so exciting to the child that Blair was wishing Jim could be here to see it too.
Due to start work in two weeks as a full time consultant, Blair was taking the opportunity to get Tommy settled in day care - starting with short stays and building up to all day sessions. Tommy would start preschool when he was five and kindergarten when he was six, which meant day care now and next year. Tommy was up to half days at the moment with Blair collecting him after lunch.
Miki Solanger was going to the same day care facility, which helped a bit, but the first week Tommy had been very distressed. This was the first real separation he'd had from Blair in the two months since his mother's death, and whenever Blair had been gone Uncle Jim had stayed with Tommy. Now, neither man was available and Tommy's separation anxiety had kicked in with a vengeance, requiring a lot of reassurance, comfort and support. This was Tommy's second week and he'd be graduating to full days tomorrow so Blair had decided to take him shopping for Uncle Jim today.
Tommy loved shopping. It didn't matter what they were buying - the whole idea of choosing something out and bringing it home was fascinating to the child who'd had almost no free will with his mother. Even grocery shopping was a treat.
Cascade Mall was crowded with teenagers just out of school and young mothers - so the noise was incredible. Blair would carry Tommy from place to place and his son would walk along while they browsed through the shop. Right now they were in 'Irene's Imports' and Blair was trying not to laugh at the mislabeled knick-knacks from Brazil. Tommy had chosen this store because of its bright display and was happily leading Blair all the way through it, scrutinizing everything carefully and chattering away happily.
"This is nice," Tommy pointed at but didn't touch the silk scarf, "He wouldn't wear that though. This is hard!"
"Maybe we could look somewhere else," Blair suggested and picked his son up when Tommy nodded. They headed back into the mall proper and Blair walked them over to the camping store. Tommy brightened immediately.
"Yeah!" he clapped his hands, "We'll really find something in here!"
An hour later Tommy found the perfect fishing lure for Uncle Jim, much to the relief of the sales assistant that had the thankless task of helping display them. Blair had grinned and guided his son as best as he could, but refused to hurry the choice or cheapen the experience. Tommy needed quality not quantity experience and Blair was determined he'd get it.
The card and gift-wrap was an easier choice - the store had paper with cop cars, badges and handcuffs printed on it and a card to match. Then they retrieved the joint present they'd chosen (a picture of Jim, Tommy, Simon, and William Ellison on the couch at the house warming party) and dropped at the frame store. Blair had already bought Jim's present - a couple of shirts made from a new micro-fibre that wouldn't irritate sensitive skin and were dressy enough for work in summer - and the fixings for the informal party they were holding in the loft the evening of Jim's birthday.
They headed back to the car happily with Tommy planning what to put in the card for Uncle Jim.
"You'll have to help me make the cake, too," Blair smiled, "We'll do it on Sunday when Uncle Jim is out. What day is his birthday?"
"Monday!" Tommy pronounced, "Day after Sunday!"
"That's right!" Blair praised, "You're a clever boy!"
"I am!" Tommy agreed and got a laughing kiss for his boast.
Blair slotted into his accustomed place at Jim's shoulder and tapped his hand to Jim's back once in their ready signal. They'd been chasing this particular example of walking pond scum for a week now, and had finally spotted him going into a small grocery store. Running a one-man protection racket was full time work and Paul Shore had been unable to lie low while the cops investigated him. Little more than the neighborhood bully with a penchant for guns and malicious damage, Paul Shore had finally pushed one of his 'customers' too far and called the wrath of the PD - in the shape of Jim and Blair - down upon his head.
Jim had canvassed the area thoroughly, spotting all the signs of vandalism, strong arm tactics and general bullying, while Blair had canvassed the people and cracked that closed society open so they could gather the kind of testamonial evidence needed to royally nail Shore to the wall.
They'd worked smoothly as a team for the first time since the fountain and Jim couldn't believe how right it felt to give Blair free reign and do what he did best. The detective made a solemn vow to at least try to give his partner more room to work in the future.
Jim extended his hearing precisely, picking up the sound of Shore's voice as he threatened his way into the till. His sense of smell picked up stale gun oil - Shore had been carrying a weapon but wasn't at the moment - and Jim nodded over his shoulder at Blair before they went in.
"Cascade PD!" Jim snapped and Shore jolted away from the till.
"Hey man!" Shore protested, "I was just helping out! The till was stuck - right?"
The storeowner backed quickly out of reach and shook his head.
"He was threatening me," the owner replied and Shore swore loudly before heaving the till right off the counter and into Jim's legs. Jim went down with a cry, dropping his gun as the heavy machine pinned him down. Shore bolted for the end of the counter closest to the door and Blair grabbed a tin from a nearby shelf, throwing with deadly accuracy at Shore's knees.
The tin hit edge first and Shore went down, cursing. Blair was on him in a flash, snapping the spare cuffs he carried for Jim on, pinning Shore's wrists behind his back.
"Jim?" Blair cried, standing up quickly and ignoring the yelling about police brutality and law suits.
"Damn it - I think he broke my leg," Jim groaned and Blair hurried over to secure Jim's gun before pulling his phone and calling for an ambulance.
Blair looked at his watch anxiously and then at the door to the ER. Jim had broken his leg between ankle and knee when the register crashed into him. It was a simple break and the doctors were setting it now. With a bit of luck he'd have Jim home in time to go get Tommy. He kept up the low monologue of comfort to Jim, even though they weren't in the same room. Good thing the waiting room was empty at the moment or he'd be getting some very weird looks.
"What's the word Sandburg?" Simon asked as he entered the waiting room, "How's Jim?"
"Broke his leg," Blair said and shook his head, "Not badly - they're setting it now."
"First time you two are in the field after Alex and he breaks his leg?" Simon shook his head, grinning. Blair grinned right back.
"So who won the pool? I know that I was the favorite for a while there, especially after the grocery hold-up," Blair asked and Simon had the grace to look a little embarrassed.
"Hey, you know it's not personal, Sandburg," Simon met Blair eye to eye and Blair laughed.
"Simon - I know that!" he shook his head, "The Sandburg-Ellison pool has been around for years - if I was going to take it personally I'd have done it when I first found out."
"Oh," Simon looked worried for a second and then grinned, "Well, Rafe won the pool this time, maybe you can get him to cut you a share of the profits."
"Maybe," Blair glanced at his watch again and Simon frowned.
"Want me to wait for Jim while you get Tommy?" Simon offered, and Blair shook his head.
"I can't," he sighed, "The pain dial slipped when the paramedics touched him and took touch and scent with it. Leaving just isn't an option now. I'll have to take him with me to get Tommy straight from the hospital."
"How about I go get Tommy? You could call the day care center and let them know I'm on my way. I'll take him home and pick up some dinner on the way - how does Thai sound?"
"Fantastic, thanks Simon," Blair smiled gratefully, "If you go to the Green Bamboo on Prospect they'll give you our usual."
"No problem," Simon nodded and headed out.
Jim smiled at the woman sitting opposite his desk and thanked her for her statement. Being on desk duty with a broken leg meant he got to take all the minor statements for his colleagues and a lot of the paperwork too. Thankfully the cast would be off next week and he'd be able to get back to the streets.
Blair was on loan to Vice, teaching a couple of the detectives there how to work behind a bar. There was more to pulling a beer than sticking a glass under the tap and some of the mixed drinks could be tricky to…mix. Blair had worked behind his Aunt's bar one summer, so his talents were coming in useful. He'd also worked a bar in Cascade to do a paper in his undergrad days and was able to pass on a lot of tips about customer interactions as well.
Vice was trying to spot the source of a new supply of illegal blades coming into Cascade and word had it that the deals were being made in several of the bars around the city. Blair had even persuaded his former employer to let the cops practice on her customers - taking his turn behind the bar to 'show them how it's done'.
"How did you break your leg, Detective?" Jim's visitor asked, pulling him back to the present and he smiled at her ruefully. She was a beautiful woman - tailored clothes and discreet make up. Her name was Rachael Collins and she worked as an insurance lawyer for one of the largest firms in Cascade. She'd been in a gas station filling her tank while the till was being emptied and gotten enough of the registration number the would-be-felon had driven off in to be useful to Brown and Rafe in their case.
"Someone dropped a cash register on it," he shook his head.
"Ouch!" she laughed, "That must be quite a story! Perhaps you could tell me about it over dinner?" Rachael invited and Jim smiled.
"Would tomorrow night suit?" he asked - after all she wasn't his witness.
"Mmph!" Jim groaned as a solid weight landed firmly on his chest. Scent and touch immediately identified his nephew and Jim rolled, pinning the boy and tickling him mercilessly. Tommy giggled and wriggled emphatically - he loved tickle fights and Jim was always happy to oblige him.
"What are you doing up?" Jim asked when he'd reduced his nephew to a boneless puddle on the bed. Newly trimmed curls spiked in all directions, giving Jim a goofy grin as he leaned over his Guide's son. Simon had been surprised that Blair hadn't wanted to grow Tommy's hair long too, but Blair had shrugged it off. Tommy had been brushing his hair out of his eyes and exclaiming impatiently, obviously fed up with the long locks so Blair had taken him happily for a trim. They were father and son, but not a matched set.
"It's Da's birthday!" Tommy whispered and Jim craned his neck to look at the clock, swallowing a groan when he saw the time. The sun had risen eight minutes ago, but Tommy had been bursting with excitement ever since Jim had clued him in on the special day.
"Barely," Jim sighed, "If we wake him up now, he'll be too tired for his party tonight."
Tommy pouted and Jim immediately tickled the lip, getting a giggle.
"Don't, Uncle Jim!" Tommy protested, tickling back. They wrestled around on the bed for a moment before Jim managed to firmly wrap Tommy in his arms. They were both lying on their sides and it was promising to be a warm day. Jim lay still, letting his fingers stroke Tommy's hair and chest, listening to the boy's breathing slow and deepen back into sleep. Jim smiled lazily and closed his eyes too.
He woke when Blair topped the stairs two hours later. Blair was smiling and fresh out of the shower by the look of it. Dressed in a short sleeved shirt and jeans but barefoot, he was a picture of health and well being. Jim felt the sight lodge firmly in his memory as his senses took a 'snapshot' of Blair. It was such a contrast to the chilling memory Jim had of the fountain that he smiled at his friend. Perhaps this memory would replace the older one. Blair tucked his hair back and smiled too.
"I didn't mean to wake you," he whispered and Jim shook his head, looking down at the boy snuggled in his arms.
"He was up early?" Blair asked, reaching out to brush a wayward curl from Tommy's face and then brush his fingers over Jim's arm. He sat on the edge of the bed gently.
"Yeah - crack of dawn," Jim pretended to grouse, "Wanted a tickle fight."
"I've trained him well," Blair gloated, but Jim could see his friend was happy that the two important people in his life were getting along so well. Jim cracked a smile and Tommy stirred a little in response to their voices.
"Hey, short stuff," Blair coaxed, "Time to wake up."
"Da?" Tommy mumbled and opened his eyes. Jim let go when he felt Tommy tense and laughed as the boy bounced straight up off the mattress and into Blair's open arms.
"Happy birthday!" Tommy grinned and kissed Blair soundly on the cheek before burrowing into Blair for some serious hugging. Even after six months of steady affection and reasurrance Tommy still craved early morning hugs and petting.
"Is that today?" Jim pretended consternation and Blair rolled his eyes. Tommy sat up indignantly.
"Uncle Jim is joking sweetie," Blair promised, "Like I didn't notice you plotting with him every chance you had," he added Sentinel soft. Tommy looked at his father seriously.
"Uncle Jim heard that Da," he reminded his father and Blair laughed. He hugged Tommy to him and then looked over at Jim. Jim sensed the question and nodded back amiably. Tommy was comfortable enough with him now. The Sentinel wouldn't scare him away.
"Do you know how Uncle Jim heard me?" Blair asked Tommy, who beamed proudly and nodded vigorously.
"He's magic! It's a secret - but Uncle Simon knows. I made him promise not to tell and he told me he knew when Uncle Jim was sick that time and he stayed the night," Tommy announced and Jim felt a huge smile split his face. Magic. Not different, not superman or a freak, just magic and therefore special. How did the Sandburgs know how to get past his defenses and straight into his heart?
"He sure is," Blair grinned, "A special kind of magic. And you're right, we can't tell anyone."
"Does it have a name?" Tommy asked - the child was big on naming things correctly. Blair had taught him some Latin in self-defense during a hike - naming as much flora and fauna by the Latin names as he could. Jim had added the Chopec names for a lot of it. Tommy had asked Miki's mother to add to the list in Japanese and was comfortably speaking several everyday phrases in that language too. At Blair's request Jim had started speaking the Chopec dialect to them both - to learn the language for himself, keep his son amused and keep a tie from Jim's first tribe alive.
"Yes," Blair nodded, "Uncle Jim is a Sentinel. That means he watches over the city and makes it safe."
"Is Uncle Simon a Sentinel too? He's a cop!" Tommy frowned and Blair shook his head.
"A Sentinel has heightened senses - he can see, hear, smell, taste and touch better than anyone else. Uncle Jim is a very good detective, and he uses his special senses to help him out," Blair explained. Jim felt another bolt of pure emotion - not a good detective because of the senses, a good detective with the senses. Blair slanted that special smile at Jim - the one that was the equivalent of getting a solid week of pampering and love.
"Oh," Tommy thought about it for a moment and then looked over at Jim. Jim smiled and held his arms out, grunting a little at the impact when Tommy threw himself over enthusiastically for the hug. Tommy sprawled on top of Jim comfortably and smiled at his uncle proudly.
"There's another part to the secret Tommy," Jim smiled back, "Do you want to hear it?"
Tommy nodded vigorously and Jim reached out a hand to draw Blair closer.
"Every Sentinel has a special partner to help them out. Sometimes things go wrong with my senses and I need someone to help me put it right," Jim began and Tommy bounced in excitement. Jim was glad he hadn't eaten anything yet, that bounce would have brought it right up.
"Da does that!" Tommy cried in delight, "He made you all better when Uncle Simon stayed over that time. And he always tells you what to do!"
"You guessed it," Jim smiled, "Da has a special name as well. In fact he has two names. The first one is Guide - and that means he looks after me while I use my senses to do my job. The second one is Shaman - which means…"
"Doctor," Blair interrupted, doubting Tommy was ready for a discussion of Shamanism and its place in modern society, "I make it better."
"Like my knee when I fell down?" Tommy asked and Blair nodded, reaching out to ruffle already wild curls.
"Sentinel and Guide," Tommy looked from one to the other, a little awed that the two adults in his life were so magical.
"When I grow up will I be magic too?" Tommy asked a little wistfully and Blair grinned.
"You're magic to me," he told his son and got a billion watt smile in reward. He shook his head a little at Jim - Guide genes or not, Tommy was too young to be burdened with that knowledge.
"Now, who wants breakfast?" Blair got up and plucked Tommy from Jim's chest easily.
Naomi looked up with a smile when Jim called her name. Her son's roommate was jogging towards her, grocery bags clinking as the bottles inside rattled to his fast pace.
"We ran out of soft drink," Jim said by way of explanation and leaned in to kiss her cheek hello, "How are you Naomi?"
"I'm well," Naomi smiled back, "Should I come some other time? I was just going to surprise Blair for his birthday."
"He'll be delighted to see you," Jim vetoed that idea, "And he'd be mad as hell if I let you go without at least saying hello. It's just a few friends and family."
Naomi wondered what Jim meant by that - she was the only family her son had in Cascade, and she was only passing through. He ushered her in, refused her offer to carry a bag happily and led the way to the lift and then down the corridor. He walked past his front door without pause and opened the door to 305.
"After you," he said with a smile.
"Did you move?" Naomi asked, "I was positive you lived in three-oh-seven!"
"Blair lives in three-oh-five now," Jim explained as Naomi stepped past him into Blair's half of their home. Simon spotted her first and smiled a welcome, waving hello and turning to look for his host. Naomi realised the gathering was mostly comprised of cops, though there appeared to be a few of her son's friends from the university by the kitchen. She wasn't surprised - Jim was a very dominant man and Blair such a giving person that he would be sure to invite most of Jim's friends to his own party.
"Chief! Your mother is here!" Jim called as he nudged the door shut and Blair came in off the balcony.
"Mom!" he exclaimed, "Hi!"
"Happy birthday sweetie," Naomi smiled and wrapped him in a big hug. She pulled back after a moment and swept her eyes over him, "You're a little thin, Blair. Have you been taking care of yourself?"
In the kitchen Jim snorted and kept putting the bottles away. Blair wasn't that thin - more like nicely muscled. He'd lost some weight after the fountain, but Jim had monitored things closely to ensure that loss was regained. Rachael shot him a curious look as she handed him the next bottle and Jim shook his head, shrugging. He went straight back to eavesdropping while Rachael headed over to the balcony to chat with Simon.
"I'm fine, Mom," Blair rolled his eyes, "Never been fitter! Where have you been - I've left messages everywhere for you!"
"I was travelling through Nepal for a while," Naomi told him, "Oh! I saw the most beautiful things there, sweetie. You should come back with me for a while. And I got your message - I just thought it would be nice to surprise you."
"Boy will you ever be surprised," Blair muttered under his breath, "Naomi - I really needed you to call; it was important. I was also worried."
Jim realised that Naomi hadn't been around to be told about Tommy and was about to learn of her new status as Grandmother. He swallowed back a nasty thought and headed over to mother and son.
"Hey Chief, why don't you take Naomi next door for a moment?" Jim suggested, cutting into Naomi's protests without a second thought, "I'll keep an eye on things here."
Blair's face softened and he touched Jim's arm gently.
"I know you will big guy. Don't open my presents ok?" Blair smiled and took Naomi's arm. He hustled his mother into the passage and ignored her startled sound as they emerged in Jim's half of their home. He was grateful Tommy had gone with William Ellison to the roof to look at the stars through the miniature telescope William had brought to the party with him. William had taught Tommy the ‘star bright' wishing rhyme the last time he had visited and had opened a whole new avenue for Tommy's curiosity to follow.
"Detach with love, Blair," Naomi chided, "I can't believe you've let him open your house like this. And look at this place - it's as if you still live here!"
"I do, Mom," Blair retorted, "Jim and I still live together, work together, play together. So much has happened since you last spoke to me. It's almost been a year for pity's sake!"
"Sweetie, you know I love you…" Naomi began, sitting on the couch, but Blair cut her words off impatiently.
"I know, ok?" he forced a smile, "But this is one year I could have used some help."
"I'm here now," Naomi offered and Blair sighed. He sat next to her and took her hand, turning so he was facing her.
"Ok," Blair nodded, "First of all, Jim and I had an accident. I drowned. I'm ok now, but it was touch and go for a little while."
"Oh sweetie!" Naomi threw her arms around Blair and held him close. Blair had no intention of hurting his mother or 'outing' Jim, so he refused to go into details and made it very clear that there was no blame to be apportioned.
"Not long after that," Blair continued, determined to get this said and done with, "I heard about Amelia Milton. You remember her, Mom. You called her a materialistic witch."
"She was," Naomi protested. Amelia had not met up to Naomi's standards as a suitable companion for Blair - few of his friends did, Jim included.
"She died, Mom," Blair said it simply, "She left me her entire estate and something pretty amazing."
"Oh, Blair - you took it? That's how you can afford the new apartment!" Naomi looked disappointed and Blair laughed.
"Hell yes I took it. I needed the money to take care of my amazing legacy!" he replied and shushed her when she would have spoken, "You'd never in a million years guess what it is."
"Da?" Tommy called from the passageway and Blair let go of Naomi to stand up. So much for breaking the news gently - Naomi was about to meet the whirlwind that was her grandson.
"In here Tommy," he smiled and Tommy trotted in eagerly, holding his arms up to be picked up and cuddled.
"Did you see the stars?" Blair asked and Tommy bounced on his hip.
"Beautiful!" he proclaimed, "Poppy and I are going to make an expellition to them! You and Uncle Jim can come too, ok Da?"
"An expedition, huh?" Blair grinned, correcting the wrong word gently, "How will we get there?"
"On camels!" Tommy said firmly and Blair tried not to laugh, "Space camels."
Blair lost it, laughing hard and plopping onto the couch next to Naomi as Tommy giggled at his antics and bounced in his lap. Blair calmed down and smiled at the understanding on his mothers face.
"Tommy, I want you to meet someone very special," Blair told his son, "Her name is Naomi."
"Hello Naomi," Tommy leaned over and hugged Naomi happily, then settled back in Blair's lap. Everyone in Tommy's family was special and was therefore greeted with hugs and smiles.
"Naomi is a member of your family too, Tommy," Blair continued.
"Like Uncle Jim and Poppy?" Tommy's face lit up even more, and Naomi shook her head. No way was a pig going to be called family by her only grandson!
"Better than that - Jim isn't really your uncle, sweetie," she corrected, "Your dad doesn't have a brother."
"Does too!" Tommy said fiercely, "Da's brother is Uncle Jim! And Poppy is Uncle Jim's Da, so that makes him my Poppy! And Uncle Simon and Auntie Rhonda and…"
"Easy short stuff," Blair soothed, putting a hand up to cover his son's mouth. Tommy was shaking in anger and Blair hugged him. The child turned in his father's embrace, shutting Naomi out by turning his back. Blair hoped Jim would come in now - the Sentinel was certainly monitoring this conversation.
"My Uncle Jim," Tommy mumbled into Blair's neck rebelliously and Blair rocked him gently.
"Yes, he's your Uncle Jim and he always will be," Blair crooned, shooting his mother a dirty look. She looked as shocked as she felt and Blair sighed in despair. Jim's hand dropped onto his shoulder and he looked up sadly. Jim came around the couch and crouched in front of Blair, reaching out to tug on Tommy's short curls gently.
"Not better," Tommy announced firmly without looking around and Jim smiled. Any doubts the casual observer had about Jim's place in Tommy Sandburg's family would have been erased. Hopefully Naomi would realise this too.
"Hey, kiddo," he soothed, "It's all ok."
Tommy raised his head out of Blair's neck and grabbed the tugging hand firmly, holding on with determination as if he could keep his family together that way. Jim rubbed his thumb over Tommy's knuckles and returned the grip with a light squeeze.
"Lets try this again," Blair sighed and Jim smiled. His brother never gave up on anything or anyone.
"Do you remember that talk we had about Poppy? About how he was my Da?" Jim said carefully, "Well, Naomi is your Da's mother."
"Grandmother," Tommy spat the word out with venom and Blair shook his head at once. That word had no happy memory to go with it and he'd rather not tar Naomi with the same brush. She caught the negative reaction immediately and had the sense to sit still.
"No, Grandmother is in New York with Grandfather," Blair corrected firmly, "There are lots of other names for Grandmother too. Maybe we could pick one?"
Tommy shook his head and Blair bit his lip. The Sandburg temper was up and running strong now and it would take a lot to redirect it. Meanwhile he had a house full of guests and an early start at work tomorrow.
"Sweetie," Naomi smiled, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean you couldn't call Jim your Uncle."
"Is my uncle," Tommy insisted and Jim stood up, sweeping Tommy from Blair's lap and hugging him close. This called for emergency measures. Tommy wrapped his arms and legs around Jim tightly and Jim returned the embrace as hard as he could without hurting his nephew, squeezing a few times for emphasis and planting a kiss on the top of his head.
"I will always be your Uncle," Jim promised, "Nana didn't mean anything bad, ok?"
"Promise?" Tommy asked and Jim nodded.
"Sentinel promise," he whispered into Tommy's ear and Tommy's face lit up at the mention of their secret. He kissed Jim on the cheek and then deigned to kiss his new Nana too. Jim ushered everyone back into the other end of the house for presents and cake, hoping that tomorrow Tommy would be ready to visit with Naomi.
"What a disaster this week has been," Blair groaned, dropping into the chair next to Jim and handing over a bottle of beer. Jim sipped the bottle and stretched his feet to rest on the balcony rail while Blair curled up in the lotus position.
"It wasn't that bad, Chief," Jim commiserated, "Your birthday party was fun. Tommy rode his first bike at day care and your guys in Vice finally caught the 'Blade Runners'."
Blair groaned and shook his head.
"Brown and Rafe better not let the guys in Vice hear that," Blair said, "There will be hell to pay."
Jim chuckled and took another sip. Blair rolled his barely touched bottle between his palms gently.
"What am I going to do about Naomi?" the question was soft and painful. Jim didn't need to glance over to see Blair's head hanging down as he rolled the bottle back and forth.
"I don't know Chief," Jim sighed, "I thought she'd be ok with it all."
"Me too," Blair sounded very young and Jim sighed, dropping his feet to the floor and turning to face his brother.
"Ok, so they didn't hit it off at your party," Jim began and Blair's head came up sharply.
"Didn't hit it off! She tried to destroy my family! I mean sure, we're not related by blood but I thought she'd at least be able to accept that I'd found my soul mate. But no! She tries to tell me its some kind of dependency thing and I should bring Tommy to Nepal so we can all meditate together!" he blurted, "And that was in my home, while I had guests!"
"She said that?" Jim felt his jaw drop and took a hasty swallow of beer. Naomi had cornered Blair in the kitchen after the presents had been opened and he was gathering plates to cut the cake. Jim had only heard the last few words, just before Naomi left:
"Go say goodnight to your grandson."
Naomi had done that and gone. Blair had cut the cake and fooled happily with his friends and family before whisking Tommy off to bed - a sure signal for his guests to leave too.
"Yeah, she said that," Blair replied gloomily and took a pull at his beer, "We had lunch together the next day and she said she was going to detach with love."
"From what?" Jim asked, puzzled.
"Me apparently," Blair sighed, "I've become materialistic and covetous or something and…basically because I'm not dragging Tommy from one place to another with my new found wealth and raising him to be a free spirited wanderer like she did I'm a disappointment to her. At the same time, it's your fault. She thinks you're a bad influence on me."
"Good," Jim grinned unrepentantly, "I certainly try hard enough to corrupt you. I'll have you color coding your Tupperware before you know it."
"Uh Jim if you remember I broke you of that little habit years ago," Blair grinned back, before his face clouded over again; "I want my son to know my mother, Jim. I know I've made a family for him here - hell strictly speaking I'm the only real relative he has living in Cascade, but…"
"But that kid is loved by the people he's adopted. We're keeping him, Sandburg and that's final. We've developed an abiding tolerance for you, but Tommy is ours," Jim teased. Blair smiled and stuck his tongue out at Jim.
"He's stirring," Jim warned and Blair hopped up, walking back inside to check his son. Jim sighed and propped his feet back up.
Naomi had come over for dinner after her lunch with Blair. Tommy had been a little wary, but she had made no further attempts to discuss his family connections and Jim had maneuvered things so Naomi could read the bedtime story to Tommy instead of Jim or Blair. Jim had stayed in Blair's half of their home with his hearing turned down while Naomi and Blair went to his to talk. She'd left after a couple of hours and Blair had been very quiet about it when he returned.
Jim had gone out with Rachael the next night and missed the picnic at the park that Major Crimes was holding. Apparently Joel and his family had been there too, and Naomi hadn't really hung around for very long. Tommy had been too busy playing with Joel's children to notice and Blair had been pretty quiet.
Sage drifted up from the street and Jim sighed, getting up to open the door for Naomi.
"Jim!" she exclaimed, "How did you know I was here?"
"Good instincts," Jim shrugged, smiling a little and closing the door. Naomi looked around and shook her head.
"This place hasn't changed a bit," she sighed, "The chi energy is still wrong. Now Tommy is here you really should consider…"
"It's changed plenty, Naomi," Jim interrupted, "You're just not looking. See over there? Those are the pictures Tommy drew for me. There are new photos on the shelves of the three of us - and Blair's graduation program is there too. The afghan is new - we had to retire the other one. Blair's room is an office now instead of a bedroom, though the futon is still in there, made up as a couch. And I don't feel any negative energy here at all. It's home and welcomes me in every night. Blair and Tommy have a lot to do with that too."
"Jim," Naomi shook her head, "I realize that having Blair close by fills a need for you, but don't you think it would be better if he was free to move on? Your job is so dangerous and he's been hurt before. What will happen to Tommy if Blair is hurt?"
"I'll take care of Tommy," Jim replied immediately, "And if I'm unable to do that then Simon or Dad will step in too. I have Blair's Power of Attorney and he has mine. Simon and Dad are both named as temporary guardians should something go wrong, though I stand in loco parentis for my brother."
"He's not really your brother though, is he?" Naomi challenged, her eyes flashing angrily. She was determined to make Jim acknowledge this at least once. Her triumph was short lived.
"You're right," Jim agreed serenely, "But there is no legal term for soul mate."
A charged silence filled the loft, both of them glaring at each other. This was a worse delusion than the one Blair fostered.
"My son is no soul mate to you, James Ellison. You are a killer and…"
"Enough!" Blair's voice was harsh with pain and anger. He was pale and trembling where he stood in the passage and Jim could hear his heart racing.
"Chief, I'm so sorry…" Jim began but Naomi broke in.
"His name is Blair," she spat, "You're always making him the child!"
"Naomi, you will not come into our home and insult Jim," Blair's voice was final, "You will not come into our home and attempt to destroy my family in order to make your place in it greater. You cannot spend all your time in another country, out of my reach, and then be upset I didn't turn to you first. Jim is my brother and the other half of my soul. He is my son's uncle and playmate. His father is a part of my family. Our colleagues are family too. If you cannot accept that my life is here and I am happy then you have no place with us. Tommy will see as much of the world as he wants to, but right now I'm more concerned he has a stable and loving home with his family and friends close by."
"Sweetie," Naomi appealed and Blair shook his head.
"My name is Blair," he replied, "You're making me a child."
Naomi's face closed off and she nodded. She turned without a further word and left the loft, closing the door gently behind her. Jim almost levitated over to Blair and held his brother close as the bitter tears fell.
"Goodnight," Blair switched off the cell phone and Jim grinned over at him.
"Now there is something I never thought I'd see on a stake out. My partner phoning in a bedtime story to my nephew," he teased and Blair laughed.
"To your nephew and your bosses son. Daryl was listening just as hard as Tommy," he replied, "Anything interesting happen?"
"Nope," Jim shook his head, "Same old, same old. You should have seen Simon's face when you asked Daryl to baby-sit, Chief. I don't know who was prouder - Daryl that you trusted him, or Simon that you trusted his son."
"Simon shouldn't be surprised," Blair shook his head, "He's a great dad. If Tommy turns out half as well as Daryl has I'll be happy."
Blair and Jim both jumped in shock at the voice at Jim's window, and Simon looked at them in astonishment.
"Don't tell me I finally snuck up on you Jim!" he exclaimed and Jim scowled.
"I'm not looking for you round the clock, sir. I was focussed on the house," Jim growled and Blair backed him up with a nod. Even Sentinels had their lapses.
"Something come up Simon?" Blair asked and Simon nodded.
"One of my snitches was in the area. He thinks they're going to move their little drug lab from this house to a new location. If they try it tonight I want to follow them to the new lab," Simon told them. After a few minutes of contingency plans and banter he headed back to his post on the other end of the block.
Jim and Blair sat in silence for a while; watching the house and playing chess on the board Blair kept stashed in the glove box.
"So how's Rachael?" Blair asked after an hour and Jim grinned.
"Good," he nodded, "We're going to that new exhibition at the gallery this weekend. If it's interesting I thought we'd go back with Tommy."
"Cool," Blair moved his knight and looked over at the house.
"We had a scare a couple of nights ago," Jim offered, "A blow out. But she's ok…everything started up on schedule, so we were lucky."
"You don't want to be a dad?" Blair asked idly, not at all offended. Jim shrugged.
"I'm a little old to start that journey Chief," he replied, moving his rook, "And…I don't think we go together well enough to raise a child. I don't do one night stands, but I don't think I'll be marrying her either."
"But you are committed to her. You spend time together and your feelings for each other are real," Blair countered, "Like ours are."
"Chief, I'm more married to you than I ever was to Carolyn. And…I'm happier with you than I was with her," Jim confessed and Blair caught his breath. He reached out a hand, which Jim took, reaffirming their bond to each other.
"I can't believe you bought him a telescope Dad," Jim shook his head as he held the garbage bag open for William Ellison to deposit the wrapping paper in.
"He loves the star gazing, Jimmy. He'll learn a lot from it and it will do no harm," William replied, "Or is Blair angry?"
"No, he's not," Blair said from near Tommy's doors, "Just wondering what I'm going to do when I catch him using it to scope out the neighbors when he's a teen."
William smiled and looked at his son for reassurance. Jim was laughing softly and shaking his head. Blair looked around at his very trashed loft and sighed.
"Next time Tommy has a birthday party we're going to one of those children's party venues," Blair groaned, "Look at this mess."
"Wait until Christmas, Chief. You won't know the place," Jim teased as Blair started packing away presents. Blair groaned again for effect and sighed when William and Jim just laughed at him.
"I get no respect," Blair complained and Jim jeered at him heartlessly; "Can't you do anything with him Mr. Ellison?"
"Sorry, son," William shrugged, "Jimmy is a big boy now - too fast for me to catch and spank."
"Thank God," Jim rejoined equably. Jim and his father had developed a gentle relationship with each other over the past eight months. Tommy had broken the ice for them, and Blair had supported Jim's efforts to reach out to the man who had nearly estranged his eldest son.
"I heard from Steven yesterday," Jim changed the subject, "He'll be back home in time for Christmas."
"Good to hear," Blair said and took the full bag of trash away from Jim, tying it off.
"I was hoping you might all come to me for Christmas lunch," William hesitated, "I realize it's Tommy's first Christmas here, but I was hoping to see you all."
"You could come here," Blair offered, "Sally too. Steven was stopping by with his family, right Jim?"
"Yeah," Jim nodded, "You could spend the day, Dad. Get here early and make a real visit out of it."
"Sally is going to her sister this year, but I'd love to come," William beamed, "Does Tommy still believe in Santa Claus?"
"Probably," Blair laughed, "I haven't had a chance to discuss it with him yet. It's still a couple of months away, plenty of time to worry about it later."
"Uh…what about Hanukah?" William hesitated, "Will you be celebrating that?"
"Not celebrating as such," Blair shook his head, "I'll observe the days like I usually do. I'm not that devout, William. And Tommy was baptized Catholic. Jim and I will take him to Church on Christmas Eve with Daryl and Simon."
"Then we'll have New Years and a few months later it'll be our first anniversary of Tommy coming to live with us," Jim shook his head, "Time sure does fly."
"When you're having fun," Blair completed the phrase and smiled at his friend.
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